Category: Contest

Taking Submissions: Story Unlikely’s Annual Short Story Contest 2023

Submission Window: October 1st – December 31st, 2023
Prizes: $1,500 prize package will be divvied up like so: $750 first place, $500 second place, $250 third place.
Theme: Fantasy, sci fi, memoir, fiction/nonfiction, etc at a MAX of 4500 words

Contest guidelines below. READ CAREFULLY. Failure to do so may result in disqualification!

Please note that we have additional perks and leeway for MEMBERS, see details below (highlighted in green)!

Story Guidelines:
The short story contest is open to everyone with a brain (a jab at AI, or to the screen-swiping, order taking, zombie-like state of the West? You decide). Don’t be fooled by our promo illustration, there are no restrictions on genre: fantasy, sci fi, memoir, fiction/nonfiction, etc – we don’t care as long as it’s a good story. The story itself cannot exceed 4,500 words. There are no restrictions on age of participant, and no need to ask us for permission to participate in the contest – just follow the guidelines below.

What do I win?
$1,000 $1,500 prize package will be divvied up like so: $750 first place, $500 second place, $250 third place. The winning story will be featured on Story Unlikely’s website, will be strongly considered for our annual (print) sample magazine, and may be sent out as the bonus story for signing up, which means a lot of exposure to the winner.
All three placing stories will be published in the monthly issue, and all three will be illustrated by our crackpot team of digital editors!
Don’t forget about the honorable mentions! That’s right, you honorable little losers, you. Is that harsh? It’s supposed to be a compliment. Anyway, we do NOT notify honorable mentions ahead of time, because we’re lazy busy, so very, very lazy busy. Rather, we announce them in the monthly issue along with the winning story, which you need to sign up for in order to be eligible to enter. If your name appears on this list of honorables, you’ll be prompted to contact us and we’ll send you a fancy-schmancy certificate for proof that you, indeed, almost won a writing contest. But not quite. Plus, if there is a strong showing, some honorable mentions may be considered for publication in our monthly magazine or podcast.


Contest: Shallow Waters’ May Flash Fiction Window

Deadline: May 31st, 2023
Payment: 3 cents per word for the winner, 2 cents per word for second place, and 1 cent per word for third place
Theme: Red

The theme for next month’s flash contest is…

“RED! The colour of blood, and love, and danger. Flashing lights, glowing eyes, cooking flesh; the blinding hue of rage, the windswept locks of a Celtic warrior princess. Give us something red – serve us something raw and dripping, a fresh cut that only you can deliver.” This theme is courtesy of last month’s winner, Matthew R. Davis, who will also read all the submissions and pick the finalists.


Contest: The Drabble Harvest Contest

Deadline: June 30th, 2023
Prizes: $5 for first place, $2 for second place, all others accepted are $1 per drabble
Theme: A drabble with the idea of: Space Station Duty-Free

A “drabble” is defined as a short story containing exactly precisely no more and no fewer than 100 words. It has a title, which can be from 1 to 15 words– but no more than 15. That’s a drabble.

You have to count each word. Hyphenated words, such as tete-a-tete, count as one word. Don’t use your word count tool to count the words, because that tool will count an ellipsis ( . . . ) as three words, which really should not be counted at all. It will also count dashes ( – ) as words, which is wrong. So count each word by sight, not by tool.

Our drabble contests have themes. For each contest, we will simply throw the theme out there. Whatever the theme inspires you to write, that’s what you write.

The theme of this contest is:

Space Station Duty-Free

This should be self-explanatory. What would people/aliens try to smuggle in? Or out?


Early Details On PitDark May 2023

Pitch Date: May 25th, 2023
Prizes: A book contract from a publisher; contracts vary between publishers. Generally royalties with the possibility of an advance.
Themes: Darker literature (horror, or other forms of fiction that are dark or are mixed genres.

Welcome to #PitDark, the only Twitter pitching contest for dark literature!

#PitDark is the first and only Twitter pitch event to highlight literature of a “darker” nature. Importantly, this is not limited to horror works; however, any pitched manuscript must contain an element of horror or darker writing. Examples of such categories include pure horror novels, dark fantasy, murder mysteries, psychological horror stories, non-fiction works about darker subjects, etc. MG, YA, NA, and adult age categories are welcome.

The next #PitDark will take place on May 25, 2023.

You can find the agents and publishers that participated in previous #PitDark events here.

Please follow the @PitDark_ Twitter account for up-to-date information about the event.

The Basics

The contest will happen on Twitter under a common hashtag (#PitDark). During a 12-hour window on the chosen day, authors with completed manuscripts who are seeking representation or publication can tweet a pitch for their books (at most, once per hour).

Agents and publishers will make requests by marking pitches as a like on Twitter. If your tweet is liked, please follow the agent or publisher’s submission guidelines.


Taking Submissions: Elegant Literature: Shadows & Knives

Deadline: April 30th, 2023
Payment: 10 cents per word
Theme: Shadows & Knives, and a crow
Note: There is ALSO a contest you can enter your work into instead of a magazine for a chance to win $3,000. However, it is pay to play on the contest.

Write a story involving Shadows & Knives, and a crow.
$3,000 grand prize.

Hurry down the street as night falls. Is that movement in the shadows? Don’t look back. Dark figures block your path, steel glinting. No time to think. Do you run, fight, or scream?

Murder is as old as time. The lights come on and someone’s dead. Everyone’s a suspect. The genius detective plays cat and mouse with a meticulous villain. Bodies, blackmail, and bloodstained letters. The cozy mystery is anything but for the victim. Prepare your alibi, avoid suspicion, and hope the trail of bodies leads back to the butler. The investigator has a secret, and the killer is working with the police. Conspiracies, confessions, and court intrigue. Assassins and bloody night raids—danger lurks in the dark. So accept the invitation, gather round the campfire, and hope the train doesn’t go through a tunnel. It’s a mystery, and we’re all gathered for the big reveal.

This contest invites you to explore shadows and knives, whatever that means to you. Fantasy, contemporary, romance, crime. All genres are welcome.

Submissions close April 30th at 11:59 pm EST. Contest only open to new writers


Contest: Tales to Terrify Flash Fiction Contest

Deadline: April 1st, 2023
First Prize: Audio version created and $50. Up to 4 runner ups for audio conversion as well.
Theme: Horror elements and relate to the theme of changing seasons

Our 2023 flash fiction contest is nearly here. This year, the theme is “Changing Seasons.” The contest is open from February 15th until midnight CST, April 1st.

Contest Rules

  • The story must have horror elements and relate to the theme of changing seasons. How you choose to interpret that theme is up to you, but it must be central to the story. Simply setting your tale during a change in seasons or having a tale take place across seasons is not adequate. It must play a crucial role in the development of the narrative.
  • The image included on this page is for interest purposes only and not intended as a prompt.
  • Deadline to submit is April 1, 2023 (11:59pm CST)
  • It must be previously unpublished.
  • Submissions must be in English, but authors from anywhere in the world are welcome to submit.
  • A minimum of ONE winner will be announced on or before June 1, 2023. The top flash piece will be produced for audio narration on Tales to Terrify and receive $50 (USD). Up to four runners up may also be considered for production.
  • Authors retain the rights to their submitted stories.


Taking Submissions: The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls 2023 Contest

Deadline: March 1st, 2023
Prizes: $50 to the and $10 to honorable mentions
Theme: Poetry with a theme of: Seasick

the theme for this year’s contest is seasick. with global greenhouse gas emissions climbing, we want poetry that examines the way human activity is affecting the ocean. we want your drowning islands, your melting glaciers, your bleached coral. we want your hurricanes, your flooding, your erosion. we want your seasick.

contest submissions will remain open from november 1 to march 1. winners will receive a $50 prize and publication. honorable mentions will also be published and receive a $10 prize. all decisions will be announced in early april and made by our editing staff. to get a feel for what we publish, we’d encourage you to scroll through our archives.

do beware that our publishing software doesn’t handle formatting very well, so think twice before you submit a work heavily dependent on visual presentation. for an example of what the display would look like, we’d encourage you to look at the page of “ghost ship” by charlotte oliver. (


Taking Submissions: Tales From The Moonlit Path Halloween Challenge

Deadline: October 13th, 2022
Prize: $50
Theme: Using a quote from the image blow to craft a story

Welcome to our annual Halloween Challenge! Brought to you by Mr. Jason Voorhees himself along with all of the other gruesome nasties we’ve paid homage to over the years. Below you will find a list of 16 movie quotes (okay, we made one up). Your challenge is to take one movie quote and turn it into a story any way you see fit. Of course, we don’t want a retelling of the movie the quote is from, we want an original from you, simply use the quote as a guide. You do not have to use the actual quote in your story, but it’s perfectly ok if you do!

Please write at the top of your submission which quote you are using.

$50 goes to the grand prize winner!